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October 23, 2009

Pesticides exposure linked to suicidal thoughts

Pesticides exposure linked to suicidal thoughts
A new study in China has found that people with higher levels of pesticide exposure are more likely to have suicidal thoughts. The study was carried out by Dr Robert Stewart from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London together with scientists from Tongde Hospital Zhejiang Province. The agricultural pesticides commonly used in China are organophosphates which are in wide use in many lower income countries but have been banned in many Western nations. It is well known that they are very dangerous if ingested as an overdose but there is also biological evidence that chronic low-grade exposure to these chemicals, which are very easily absorbed into the body through the skin and lungs, may have adverse effects on mental health. This study is the first epidemiological evidence to suggest possible effects on suicidal thoughts. The study was carried out in central/coastal China, a relatively wealthy area with a rapidly developing economy. In a very large survey of mental health in rural community residents, participants were also asked about how they stored pesticides. The study found that people who stored pesticides at home, i.e. those with more exposure, were more likely to report recent suicidal thoughts. Supporting this, the survey also found suicidal thoughts to be associated with how easily accessible these pesticides were in the home and that the geographic areas with highest home storage of pesticides also had highest levels of suicidal thoughts in their populations.

October 21, 2009

We'll Huff and We'll Puff All the Way to the Bank

YouTube - Vortex Cannon! - Bang Goes the Theory Preview...

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October 20, 2009

An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All

An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All | Magazine This whole thing is well worth a read.
So what has this award-winning 58-year-old scientist done to elicit such venom? He boldly states — in speeches, in journal articles, and in his 2008 book Autism’s False Prophets — that vaccines do not cause autism or autoimmune disease or any of the other chronic conditions that have been blamed on them. He supports this assertion with meticulous evidence. And he calls to account those who promote bogus treatments for autism — treatments that he says not only don’t work but often cause harm. As a result, Offit has become the main target of a grassroots movement that opposes the systematic vaccination of children and the laws that require it. McCarthy, an actress and a former Playboy centerfold whose son has been diagnosed with autism, is the best-known leader of the movement, but she is joined by legions of well-organized supporters and sympathizers. This isn’t a religious dispute, like the debate over creationism and intelligent design. It’s a challenge to traditional science that crosses party, class, and religious lines. It is partly a reaction to Big Pharma’s blunders and PR missteps, from Vioxx to illegal marketing ploys, which have encouraged a distrust of experts. It is also, ironically, a product of the era of instant communication and easy access to information. The doubters and deniers are empowered by the Internet (online, nobody knows you’re not a doctor) and helped by the mainstream media, which has an interest in pumping up bad science to create a “debate” where there should be none.

October 19, 2009

Geoengineering is not a solution to global warming

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: Geoengineering is No Free Lunch -- A Comment on SuperFreakonomics Nate Silver talks with Dr. John Latham, an expert on geoengineering. The new Superfreakonomics book has come under massive criticism for a chapter on global warming that misrepresents science, states that some scientists advocate the exact opposite of their beliefs, and proposes geoengineering as a quick-fix solution.
Firstly, Latham thinks geoengineering approaches are woefully underfunded -- the word he used to describe the current levels of funding was "derisory" -- just a few million dollars toward an approach which could potentially combat the multitrillion dollar problem of climate change. "All I can hope for in my lifetime is to see some real funding of the examination of the viability of geoengineering schemes," he told me. Secondly, Latham was adamant that geoengineering programs are not looked at as a substitute to carbon reduction schemes but rather as a complement to them. He told me: "The thing that has scared everyone I know working in geoengineering, and the thing that has caused a lot of very good scientists to say we shouldn't have it is the worry that if it was announced that geoengineering was to be thoroughly examined, there would be a temptation on behalf of the oil companies to say, “Oh well, they’re going to solve the problem, we can keep burning fossil fuels”. Which is the last thing anyone wants. But then to not examine it would be irresponsible. If we reach that tipping point, we want to be in the position to be able to help out." Thirdly, the largest hurdles to geoengineering are arguably not scientific but political. Although geoengineering approaches would almost certainly succeed in reducing the earth's average temperature, the effects would not be uniform across the globe, nor would they precisely counterbalance the warming effects of CO2.